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Libraries across the country offer a vast selection of books. Biographies, adventures, and every other topic the reader may hope to find. There is a book for everything, unless if it has been plucked from the shelves. Schools have been faced with challenges regarding whether specific books should be banned from their libraries. Books that are challenged often have themes and elements that parents or other adults do not want students reading. While many people agree with the logic behind book banning, others believe that students should have access to all books within their school.
Schools should discontinue the practice of book banning because it violates the students’ first amendment rights and restricts students’ access to knowledge on important social topics.
To begin, the practice of book banning in schools should be discontinued because it violates students’ First Amendment rights. Students have many different interests and their book preferences reflect this. For instance, “’ There’s just not a place in children’s books for underwear,’ remark those who challenge the books.
” This quote, found in the article “Book Challenges Bring Attention-and More Readers-to Many Books,” explains the reactions of challengers to Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and how people are opposed to the prospect of underwear in children’s novels. Students enjoy the crude humor in the Captain underpants series, and the idea of an underwear-clad superhero saving the world from toilet-themed villains is very popular with young readers and students. Taking these novels away and claiming that they are indecent restricts students from accessing the humor found in these novels.
If a student wants to express themselves by reading a humorous novel, they should be allowed to. Anything that tries to stop this expression violates the student’s right to expression as stated in the First Amendment. Thus, book banning restricts students’ right of expression. Moreover, the 2019 article “Book Banning,” states that “. . . the Cedarville School District required students to obtain parental permission before borrowing books in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which the Cedarville school board worried promoted witchcraft, disobedience, and disrespect for authority.”
Obtaining parent permission to read a novel is both inconvenient and frustrating for students. Those who wish to read a magic-filled fantasy novel can no longer do so because the school board deemed it to be a bad influence on their character, even when the student themselves cannot see how this is a problem. The student is restricted from expressing themselves through the Harry Potter world, which is a violation of their First Amendment rights. In the end, the first amendment states that everyone is subject to the freedom of speech, press, and expression. These rights are highly valued by the American population, and the expanse of these rights is not limited to those outside the school system. Students have these rights as well and by restricting novels such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants, students’ rights of expression are stripped away. Henceforth, the practice of book banning in schools should be stopped due to the blatant disruption of students’ first amendment rights.
Additionally, schools should discontinue the practice of book banning because it restricts students’ access to information about important social issues. Books that are challenged and banned often include debated and intense topics. To illustrate, the article, “Censorship Cannot Be Allowed in America” by Ellen Hopkins states that “. . . two days before the visit [to a middle school], a parent challenged one of my books for ‘inappropriate content.’ She demanded it is pulled from all middle school libraries in the district.” Later in the article, the author explains that her novels “. . . explore tough subject matter-addiction, abuse, thoughts of suicide, teen prostitution,” (Hopkins 5). Middle school students are transitioning into their teen years where they will start being exposed to topics like the ones Hopkins includes in her novel. Suicidal thoughts and teen prostitution are topics and situations that middle school students are faced with. By reading novels that include these topics, they are exposed to the realities of many negative parts of the world. They can learn about these issues and protect themselves, while also creating their own opinions to enrich their understanding of the world. Thus, banning books restricts students from being exposed to hard topics and is harmful to students who are developing their visions of the world.
To add on to the issue of book banning restricting information on important social issues, the chart “Challenged Books and Related Materials Recorded by the American Library Association, 2007-2017” illustrates that the novel And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is one of the most challenged books because it includes, “anti-ethnic; anti-religious; homosexuality; religious viewpoints; . . .” In school, students are learning the information they need to advance in the world and are offered a chance to make their own viewpoints on issues. They take information and other peoples’ opinions to help learn and create perspectives. Taking away novels that prompt students to question things about ethnicity and religion forces students to make decisions without all the known information. Students do not see information other than what parents and teachers want them to see, which disrupts their understanding of the world and what the truth of these social issues are. Plus, by taking away novels that include homosexuality students do not see the multiple opinions on this topic and only see it as restricted. This perspective is one that causes students to see homosexuality as forbidden or wrong. They do have access to all the information on these important topics and only see the information that has been filtered and deemed safe by adults who have different opinions and values than their own.
Without banned books like And Tango Makes Three, students cannot access information about important social issues beyond the simplified version that challengers want them to see. In addition, the novel Looking for Alaska, by John Green was challenged because of drugs, alcohol, and smoking explains the chart “Challenged Books and Related Materials Recorded by the American Library Association, 2007-2017.” Drugs and alcohol use is an issue commonly seen in high school students across the country. Students are already exposed to the topic, so restricting information found in books does nothing but keep students from learning the truths behind drugs and alcohol use. Not to mention, without concrete knowledge found in challenged novels, students will not see the problem behind drug and alcohol use and will continue to only see a narrow view of the issue. In the end, restricting novels that include drug and alcohol use stops students from learning about the important issue of drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, banning books that tackle social issues is harmful to students’ understanding of social issues and restricts what they learn about the problems in the world; proving that book banning in schools needs to be discontinued.
On the contrary, some people believe that book banning in schools is good because it allows parents to be confident that everything their child reads is safe and appropriate. This is true, and many parents look to shield their children from undesirable topics and opinions in this way. However, there are other ways that students can be protected from undesirable content in novels. Most students can decide what content they are comfortable being exposed to and can choose novels accordingly. Therefore, a student who is uncomfortable with specific topics such as drug use or homosexuality can choose a novel that excludes these elements, whereas students that are comfortable with these topics can still read the novels. There is one problem with this logic, without a book being deliberately removed, it is hard to tell which book includes undesirable content, making it hard to avoid for students and their parents who wish them not to see this content. The solution could be as simple as labeling which novels contain challenged content.
Online library catalogs can easily add a notice that explains any and all challenging topics that are present in the novel via a section in the novel’s description. Libraries can also add a sticker or label on the inside cover of the book that lists the undesirable topics present within the novel. This would ensure readers that they understand and are comfortable with any challenged content within the novel. Thus, there are other reasonable ways that libraries can respond to book challenges other than book banning that allows students full access to all novels and information while also addressing the concerns that parents have for their child’s safety. With this alternative solution, any concerns that parents have do not apply; proving that book banning is irrational and should be discontinued.
In brief, schools should discontinue the practice of book banning because it violates students’ first amendment rights and restricts students’ access to information on important social issues. Taking away novels does nothing but restrict students’ knowledge and their right to expression. Why stop students from learning about issues like homosexuality and suicide when this knowledge directly affects their life? Students need knowledge, there is no good reason to restrict it from them. Why teach them that they must let adults choose what they can and cannot read? Students have free will and logic they can use to make good decisions. There are other ways to ensure that students do not read things they are not comfortable with such as labeling novels or placing a notice on the library’s online catalog. In the end, the irrational practice of book banning does nothing but harm students and needs to be stopped. If not, soon enough students will step into their school library and be greeted with empty shelves and a ghastly reminder of the lost knowledge that they will never possess.
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